School is out and summer is in full swing. This is the season where students could relax all day long and have fun. But for some, vacation means spending their break productively. A summer internship is a great way to teach students how to make a living and put them on the right career path.
But as a business owner, are you ready for an internship program? Do you have a great project for career development? Will they learn something valuable from your startup company? A good intern program will not only benefit the student but also your company. Check out these tips on how to make a quality internship program that delivers a top-notch business experience and real-world results.
Internships create a gateway for future talent
Compared to trade giants, as a small startup business, it may be hard to attract interns that will work for your company. There are plenty of students out there, but convincing them to choose you as their employer is another story. There’s no better way to measure one’s capabilities and build a lasting relationship with future achievers than internships.
Don’t think of interns as just student helpers but as employee prospects, you need to incorporate and develop this mentality into the culture of your company. Make sure to:
- Fine tune their abilities and lead them towards career advancement.
- Be open to the possibility of future employment, especially for top performers.
- Make a good fast-track plan that will turn an internship into a job offer.
Make the first day memorable
Interns need to feel that they are part of the company, not someone who will just work for a couple of months then leave after the requirements have been completed. They need to realize that this has the potential to be a full-time job, and they are employees just like everybody else.
To make their first day memorable, provide everything they need from a workstation to building access, badges, usernames and passwords, contact list, and internet login. Don’t stop welcoming your interns at day one, but rather maintain the homey and friendly vibe up to the end.
- Put welcome signs upfront or at workstations to acknowledge their presence.
- Give them personalized company essentials like mugs, shirts, notepad, etc.
- Invite interns to lunch or dinner together with the team or other employees.
Assign work with measurable outcomes and goals
It is a common misconception that an intern’s work will only revolve within mundane tasks and simple office chores. Gone are the days of letting them photocopy documents, do paper sorting, fill empty supplies, or make you a coffee. Make sure that your summer internship program includes a mix of everything – both technical and simple responsibilities.
Interns should feel the significance of doing real work, along with job accountability and performance liability. To be able to measure their success, assign workloads with measurable goals. Here are sample work assignments with quantifiable outcomes that you can pass on to your interns:
- Let them do data tasks such as tabulating results or updating salesforce.
- Invite them to attend and observe marketing sessions or group meetings.
- Ask interns to provide a market study, summary reports, or competitive analysis.
Let them discover and learn things outside the box
The best intern programs allow trainees to discover something new and learn things outside of books. Interns already know how to calculate data via excel, they are well-adept when it comes to drafting letters, and most of them can identify grammatical errors and mistakes. Why not teach them life skills that can only be learned thru the corporate experience.
If you are an engineering company, give them a customer service assignment to develop client communication. Those on the retail business, on the other hand, can ask trainees to settle disputes and improve customer relation. The objective of your intern’s work program is to teach them how theoretical knowledge can be applied in real case scenarios.
- Assigned a buddy or mentor that will closely monitor the intern’s progress.
- Instill a teaching mentality that will focus on training and mentoring.
- Develop short-term and long-term projects for your trainees.
Get a fresh perspective about your company
Your full-time employees are well connected and adapted to each other and over time that creates a sense of analogous thinking – or seeing things in the same perspective. But interns offer a fresh set of eyes, meaning they see things from a different standpoint. You could use this to your advantage to learn more about your business, through an intern’s outlook.
Ask for their suggestions on what needs to be changed and improved. Encourage interns to speak up on how they view the company. Or better yet solicit their opinion regarding company rules and regulations. As the owner, respect their opinion and don’t get defensive if they offer constructive criticism. Instead:
- Be open-minded and listen to their viewpoint.
- Make notes and consider new profitable directions for your business.
- To evaluate the effectiveness of your program, let them rate their internship experience.
Build relationships with colleges and universities
Sure that there are tons of schools and universities within your area, but not all of them have top internship programs compatible with your business. Do your research and narrow down options, make sure that these schools have relevant programs that go well with your company. Contact the best candidates and build a trusting relationship.
Keep in touch with school administrators and be honest about your needs as well as company requirements. You want to be the first option when recruiting summer interns, so remember to:
- Attend and support their career fairs, and offer help if possible.
- Source interns wherever possible; from local organizations and associations.
- Check Future Business Leaders of America, Student Veterans for America, etc.
Maintain the connection and keep it strong
The last tip on how to make the best intern program is to establish connections and keep it strong. You want to maintain a cordial relationship even after September comes around. Because maintaining a strong summer internship is a long continuous process that doesn’t end after summer.
During the school year, most interns are not available for a full-time position so you may want to consider giving them alternative options. You can offer them 10 hours per week or even 20 hours per month depending on their availability. Before ending an internship program, make sure to:
- Follow federal and state labor laws regarding internship payment.
- Keep in touch with interns and consider offering them full-time employment.
- Welcome referrals made by past interns and thank them for suggesting your business.